, FEBRUARY 13, 2007
  (STAR) TXT IN D CITY By Patrick R. Garcia, BIDSHOT WIRELESS SERVICES - A lot of speculative talk and insider gossip had been going around all of 2006 about an Apple-made mobile phone going to market. Finally it happened last month at the annual Macworld conference in San Francisco when Apple’s chief guru Steve Jobs drew from his pocket a sleek device to unveil the much-awaited iPhone. A deafening applause soon after emanated from the convention center, sending the crowd on their feet and Apple’s stock price surging eight percent higher while those of competitors Nokia, Palm and RIM coming down. I would have loved to be there to feel the vibe, see the excitement and witness technologies’ best showman present what may very well be the next revolutionary gadget.

True to Apple fashion, this sexy device is dominated by a huge 3.5-inch display with 160 pixels per inch resolution, the highest iPod resolution yet. Its innovative design does away with the traditional mobile phone buttons with its full touch screen. A lone tiny joystick acts as a home button. The back is made of textured aluminum, disturbed only by the lens of a two-megapixel camera and a mirrored Apple logo. The phone is about the size of a Palm Treo, weighs in at a standard 4.8 ounces and is thinner than a Motorola Q. Call it whatever you want but the iPhone, in my view, is a mobile handset, iPod video and a wireless Internet device all molded into one. The mobile handset features of this phone may actually be its least interesting facet.

To begin, the touch screen is operated by finger alone; you get virtual keys on the screen. You don’t even have to be exact when typing because intelligent software considers adjacent keys — and corrects your typos automatically. When surfing via Wi-Fi or EDGE connectivity you get to see the entire Web page on the iPhone’s screen via its Safari browser, although with tiny type. So to enlarge it, you can double-tap any spot. Also, a new super cool feature called Multitouch will allow you to pinch the screen to shrink it or slide your fingers to the opposite direction to expand it. The iPhone has a proximity sensor, too, so it knows when you bring the phone to your ear and then shuts off the touch screen. The ambient light sensor adjusts brightness to save power and the accelerometer knows your iPhone position to switch between landscape and portrait screen mode.

Similar to your iPod, scrolling through listings of songs or albums is easy yet there is no Clickwheel. Instead, you flick your finger on the glass to send the list scrolling freely. A dock is included, allowing you to synch the iPhone with your iTunes music, photos, address book, podcasts and videos. As a mobile phone it does not fall short, too; it’s a quad-band GSM phone where text messages appear as a continuous chat thread. The iPhone will run on Mac OS X software and can download e-mail from standard accounts. In fact, Yahoo will offer free "push" e-mail — that is, messages will arrive on the iPhone in real time like a BlackBerry. I never liked voicemail because I found it all so lame and a waste of time to wait and not be able to skip through messages that I had previously heard. Well, Apple has just done something fantastic; a new feature called Visual Voicemail displays all the messages you have in a list, similar to your text message inbox and all you have to do is select the message you want to listen to. As for battery life, Apple claims the iPhone can do five hours of continuous talk time and 15 hours of playing music. Of course, this is yet to be confirmed against "real-world" usage.

The pricetag on the iPhone when launched in the US later in the year will be $499 for the 4GB model and $599 for the 8GB with a two-year contract through Cingular. Also, the iPhone will be only exclusive for Cingular through 2009; Europe will see it launch in Q4 and in Asia in 2008.

I have not gotten hold of an iPhone yet (well, who has?) and so what I know about it is limited to what I have read. Nevertheless, I will be more than glad to share my initial thoughts.

Analysts have said that the iPhone’s high price would keep it from becoming a mass market hit and it is clearly targeted at the highest-value subscriber. I think this is a great strategy since they are the most profitable subscribers. Actually, most if not all post-paid subscribers here I know are just itching to immediately own one. Because of the Apple branding it will definitely enjoy strong consumer loyalty and become an aspirational item fast. Eventually Apple will start creating more models with lower price points so as to serve various categories of the "mass" market, similar to the Nano and Shuffle model offerings. Also, how many people do you know currently carry both a mobile phone and an iPod? A great number of them would jump at the chance of owning this sleek converged device if it works as smoothly as an iPod. Apple has sold 100 million iPods globally, sold 2 billions songs at 99 cents at iTunes and offers more than 220 TV shows on iTunes for download. The current annual mobile phone market is one billion units a year in a global consumer electronics market that spent $150 billion last year. The data speaks for itself; I predict that iPhone would be a huge success.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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